The Ocean of the Soul: Man, the World, and God in the Stories of Farid Al-Din 'Attar

By Hellmut Ritter; John O'Kane | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN
GOD'S MERCY AND KINDNESS

To be sure, fear (khawf) of eternal punishment, of being predestined for damnation, is not by any means eliminated but it does find a counterbalance in hope (rajāʾ) in God's mercy. Alongside God's harsh violence (qahr, jalāl) stands His kindness, grace and mercy (luṭf, jamāl, ʿināyat, raḥmat), alongside His threat (waʿīd) there is His promise (waʿd) and, according to a divine saying, God's mercy has precedence over His wrath.

Sabaqat raḥmatī ghadabī. Wensinck, Concordance 2/239b; Mathnawī 1/2672 and Nichol-
son's Commentary p. 168.—Regarding the equivalent of this double modality of divine mani-
festation in Philo see I. Goldziher, Die Richtungen der islamischen Koranauslegung 211–13.

On the maqām oī rajāʾ cf. the textbooks, e.g. Qūt 1/213–25; Nahrung 2/298–325/32.172–
231; Iḥyāʾ 4/123–35; Stufen 298–325/C.1–50.

If You trample me with the foot of harshness, (at the same time) You scatter
hundreds of kindnesses over my head. If You wound me with the sword of justice,
(at the same time) You make Your grace a balsam for my soul. (MN 0/2, in a long
prayer to the Godhead).

It is not permitted to ask the question why God now turns one side of His being toward man and now the other. God's action is inscrutable.

Since nothing that You do happens for a reason, forgive me without a reason,
oh Creator! If You give me an atom of good fortune (dawlat), then give it to me.
For You give without reason! (MN in Khātimal/16).

But if the question is posed, it is answered by referring to God's essential nature. God behaves this way in order to manifest His essential nature as lord and ruler over His creatures and slaves. We have already seen that ʿ Aṭṭār has an answer for why suffering and injustice exist in the world. It is contained in the story about Sultan Maḥmūd and his vizier, in which Maḥmūd laments that his kingly hall is empty of people with complaints, and to remedy this he sends out soldiers to create a cause for complaint themselves so that the kingly hall will become filled as is proper (above p. 64).

-264-

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